Why You Should Use Robots.txt and Its Benefits.

The robots.txt file is a simple text file (no
html) that is placed in your website’s root
directory in order to tell the search engines
which pages to index and which to skip.


Many webmasters utilize this file to help the
search engines index the content of their
websites.

If webmasters can tell the search engine
spiders to skip pages that they do not
consider important enough to be crawled
(eg. printable versions of pages, .pdf files
etc.), then they have a better opportunity to
have their most valuable pages featured in
the search engine results pages.


The
robots.txt file is a simple method of
essentially easing the process for the
spiders to return the most relevant search
results.


That being said, I have seen many occasions
where the robots.txt has not been used in
the best way possible. For instance,
webmasters are prone to make mistakes
when installing the robots.txt and the
repercussions can be severe. There is a
simple instruction that restricts all search
engine spiders from crawling the entire site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Without the “forward slash” in the
instructions, search engines are granted
access to the entire site. So, the inclusion of
this one character in the robots.txt can
prevent a website from showing in the
search engines.


There could be many
reasons why webmasters would do this
intentionally (website is still relatively new
and they may still want to tweak certain
pages for keyword density etc.), but more
often than not, it is a mistake and is usually
only realized when the site hasn’t shown up
in the search engine indexes for months.
Errors aside, another benefit of having a
robots.txt is that you can specify the location
of the Google .xml or Yahoo sitemap with
this simple instruction:
sitemap: http://www.client.com/sitemap.xml
(this assumes the xml sitemap is located at
the root of the domain).


This also increases spiderability for the
search engines. Of course, even though this
is a small aspect of the search engine
optimization process, if utilized correctly, a
robots.txt can be a significant benefit.

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